I had every intention of filling the past couple weeks with tons of delectable food posts. Unfortunately, I was rudely interrupted by what I thought was the flu or a stomach bug. Well, let me share a personal tale with you…if you prefer, you can scroll down to the food porn, because after reading my story you may or may not be hungry…
After suffering through stomach pain for a few days and eating very little, I finally went back to the doctor (two times in three months after not going for like, three years…what is up with that?) who gave me the diagnosis of gastritis – inflammation of the stomach lining. It sounds yucky and, in fact, it feels yucky – I imagine it is like what you might feel if you had been punched in the stomach…coupled with a troublesome burning sensation. I was instructed to eat at regular intervals, despite having no appetite. I was also given some medicine similar to nexium, et al – you know, all those commercials you see on tv – the drugs I previously thought were reserved for people eating lots of fast food and partaking in other reckless indulgences. It didn’t seem fair that I, eater of things purely plant-based, should suffer such a fate as to have to take prescription acid-suppression drugs in order to heal what could possibly be erosions in the lining of my stomach. I normally do not take drugs, but I assure you, I was desperate.
Looking back upon the last six years or so, it becomes quite apparent to me that this is a chronic condition that I simply never sought treatment for. It began with severe chest pains senior year of high school and continued on through college. I gave up coffee, after realizing that the accompanying burning sensation in my abdomen was probably not a healthy thing. The same happened with alcohol about a year later – I just couldn’t tolerate it any more. Going vegetarian and vegan lessened my "attacks" drastically, but they still snuck up on me from time to time. So here I am, eating what I think is a pretty healthy diet, free of common “triggers” like deep fried foods, alcohol, tobacco, soda, spicy dishes, caffeine…( oh wait, there’s caffeine in chocolate )…and *wham* I’m hit with some stomach trauma. (Yes, I had to come to the sad realization that I need to give up chocolate for a little while – just after I baked some delectable chocolate frosted cuppers. *sigh*) Tomato sauce is another food that can be bothersome for me, so I’m forgoing that for now, as well.
I guess what I’m getting at – in a very roundabout way, of course – is that my diet really isn’t to blame for this condition. You know what is? Stress & anxiety. There, I said it: I have a bit of an anxiety issue. My life is comfortable. I really have no reason to be anxious – after all, J and are doing well financially and are both healthy. Our cats are well, as are our families. Yet you see, dear readers, I create a lot of trauma in my life simply through my mind. I create a lot of turmoil for myself simply by thinking too much (and often, not acting enough). I suspect that I am probably not alone in this arena, so let my physical manifestation of needless stress be a lesson to you: RELAX. Your body will thank you. Stress really is a killer, and you don’t need to be in the stereotypical high-powered job to have stress either, as I was trying to illustrate. As for me, it’s something I need to work on. I intend to get back into my yoga practice and try not to fret too much about the course of my life right now, which, incidentally, feels very up-in-the-air (where should I go? what should I do with my life? why am I stagnating? AHHH!!!).
Anyhoo, it’s on to the food we go. My stomach finally started feeling better over the weekend, and I ended up preparing enough food to make up for all the food I didn’t eat while I wasn’t well (it always evens out, doesn’t it? On my “detox” I lost 2 pounds only to gain it back probably within hours of eating “normally” again – always a battle!). Okay, let’s get on with it already…
I made my own seitan for the first time! I used the recipe from Vegan With a Vengeance. It turned out a little spongy, but after pan-frying it, the texture was fine. I might try baking it next time, as I've seen others do. Anyone have any seitan tips?
Here is some seitan that I dredged in cornmeal before cooking, along with green beans and twice baked herb potatoes from The Balanced Plate. (The cookbook is quite lovely, even if I still haven't given it a thorough reading yet.) J said he would have preferred plain potatoes (I liked the fresh herbs - it felt a little fancy to me...and the potato filling was just so rich with the pine nuts and olive oil mm mmm), but he told me the seitan was delicious. I agreed.
Green Beans and Rice with Sesame-Orange Sauce from Rice & Spice, seen here with more seitan. The beans were okay but not thrilling.
I usedJennifer McCann'sMagical Loaf Studioto create a peanut-mixed bean loaf that was a bit more akin to peanut-mixed bean mush. The flavor was great, but I probably should have cooked it longer. Then again, most bean loafs are not the same texture as meatloaf, so maybe my standards are off. The MLS is fun, though, you should try it.
Congee from Rice & Spice: this was probably my favorite meal of the week, and it was so incredibly simple. Taken from the recipe header: "Congee is a simple restorative porridge that is traditionally served at breakfast in China." The recipe calls for white rice, but I used long-grain brown rice instead. Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly with its shredded cabbage, onion, ginger, garlic, and tamari. We topped it off with some veggies and peanuts, and it was totally delicious and satisfying. I will definitely make this again soon.
These, as you can probably tell, are basic yellow cupcakes with chocolate "buttercream" frosting from VCTOTW topped with chopped almonds and chocolate chips (grain-sweetened). These puppies are special, so I am going to dedicate a post solely to their specialness. Stay tuned!
Last, but certainly not least, we have some old fashioned oatmeal raisin cookies. The recipe is one that I adapted from the Sivananda yoga website. I changed it enough to hopefully make it my own. Does anyone have any opinions on that - when you can finally call a recipe your own, even if you obtained the original from another source? It's a question I've pondered often. You see, about two years ago, I started toying around with the idea of opening my own bakery. I've always loved to bake and have been doing it ever since I was a kid, but I always followed other peoples' recipes. Despite that, people have always complimented my baked goodies (not to toot my own horn or anything...but *toot*) - probably due in large part to the fact that no one bakes anymore, so homemade treats are like, whoa! I still like to think I have a bit of a magic touch, though. Anyway, I've been trying to create "my own" recipes, but it's not easy with baked goods since there is often a delicate dance of chemistry involved. Luckily, these cookies turned out superbly, with only 3 or 4 raisins a piece (overloading cookies with raisins is not a virtue in my kitchen). Truly superb. I wish you all could be my focus group for my potential-but-probably-unlikely-to-happen bakery. I can't trust myself to judge my own masterpieces.
*phew* was that a long post or what? Hopefully I didn't lose anyone along the way...
Thanks for the article. I'm experiencing the same problem--sensitive stomach due to stress. It's strange how much stress can affect you physically, when it seems like a mainly psychological issue. When you're generally more optimistic and happy, is your stomach more calm?